Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Adelina Patti theatre, 1901

Dr Carole Reeves found this poem in the archives at the National Library of Wales. It’s not attributed to anyone so perhaps there was a court poet in the castle! The accompanying photograph shows the Patti Theatre at the same date.

From limestone ridge and mountain crest
The landscape seems a vast unrest.
Disturbed the face of Nature shows
The rocky vale where Tawé flows
With leaps and bounds – ‘mid storm and spray
It rushes on its noisy way.
The lofty skyline bounds the scene
With rolling uplands in between
The river’s marge, the hill’s recess
With verdure deck the loveliness.
The stately Black Rock rears its head
Above the river’s rugged bed.
The winter scene more grandeur shows
Than Summer, but when sunshine glows,
The vales with green and gold are fair,
And cool and sweet the mountain air.
Yet Nature in her wildest mood
Can best be read and understood
By force of contrast – look, ‘tis Art
Has played an open-handed part,
And raised amid this glorious space
A lordly house of light and grace –
A gem of art in nature set
That one shall see and ne’er forget,
Upstanding in its stately pride
It dominates the countryside –
A palace in the wilderness,
A feudal keep in modern dress
That Merlin’s magic wand might raise
Had he been living in these days,
Or fairies building in a night
Had brought this beauteous place to light.
And yet enchantment reared the walls,
And filled with luxury its halls.
The power of a voice achieved
More than magician e’er conceived,
And raised a castle high and strong
By aid of music and of song.

(This looks like a poem written by Ethel Rosate-Lunn, former maid to Adelina Patti who became known as the "poetess of the Tawe". I may be wrong. Does anyone know the author? - Ann)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Unknown patient- 1950?

This photo comes from the large collection belonging to Mari Friend,( nee Jenkins). It is from her sister's album( now deceased).

Would anyone recognize this woman? We believe it was taken around 1949-51.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sisters Morgan, Outram and Powell

Dr Carole Reeves writes:

By looking in the staff registers and journals of the Welsh National Memorial Association, I’ve managed to fill in some gaps in our knowledge of these three ladies remembered by many ex-patients. All of them would have been born around the turn of the 20th century.

Sister Winnie Morgan first came to Craig-y-nos as a staff nurse on 12 March 1923. She had previously worked at Glan Ely Hospital, another of the Association’s TB sanatoria, near Cardiff, from 1919 to 1921. Her starting salary as a staff nurse was £60 a year, which increased to £70 when she was made a night sister on 1 March 1924.

Sister Ethel Outram was appointed staff nurse to North Wales Sanatorium on 14 November 1921 and became a sister on 1 April 1922. She developed TB and was admitted as a patient shortly afterwards. Although she returned to duty after a few months, she seems to have had sick leave on and off for the next three years. She was a sister at Glan Ely Hospital before transferring to Craig-y-nos in 1930 at a salary of £75 a year. Nurses who’d had TB were welcomed in sanatoria but found it difficult to get jobs in general hospitals. I discovered a number of cases of young student nurses (none relating to Craig-y-nos) who had caught TB and tried unsuccessfully to claim compensation from the Association.

Sister Elizabeth (Bessie) Powell was a student nurse when she was appointed to Pontsarn Hospital, a TB sanatorium in the Brecon Beacons, in 1919. She remained there (promoted to sister in 1927) until going to Craig-y-nos on 1 October 1936.

I have a list of staff appointed to Craig-y-nos during the 1920s so if you think a member of your family might be among them, please let me know.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The bird tamer - "Ann on Blocks"-1957

"Ann on Blocks" feeding blue-tit on balcony.

Ann Peters, ( nee Williams) known as “Ann on Blocks” because her bed was raised on 12-inch blocks, was known as “the bird tamer”.

From her bed on the balcony she would entice robins, blue-tits and sparrows to hop on to her hand by saving crumbs of bread for them.

“They used to come in and sit on my hand.”

Life on the balcony was cold, with the temperatures plummeting below zero in winter yet on clear nights it could be very beautiful:
“We used to watch the Northern Lights from our beds. We had tarpaulins on the bed to keep the snow and rain off. Yet it was very enjoyable. At the time, it didn’t seem as if there was anything wrong or hard about it. We were all in the same position and nobody complained.”

Ann’s father had died of TB at home when she was “ about five years old” and her two brothers and sister had also been in hospital.

Ann says:” One would have it, come home, and then the next one would have it. It seemed to go on forever.”
So, when the time came for her to go into Craig-y-nos she knew partly what to expect.

“I know it might sound silly but it was really enjoyable there. We had visitors every weekend. My father’s sister was in at the same time as me. She was on Ward 1. She died, unfortunately.”

“ I wasn’t allowed to sit up. I was on my back for sixteen months.
I was caught sitting up once by Dr Huppert.
Oh, gosh! She told me that if she caught me doing that again, she’d put me in plaster of Paris so that I couldn’t move. It was for my own good, I know, because I was so ill.
She said that she’d put me in the room next to her so that she could watch me all the time.”
Ann laughs as she tells this story.
“It did stop me sitting up, I can tell you.
Dr Huppert told my mother that when I went in it would be twelve months before they’d even know if I was out of the woods. Those were the words she used.

“Dr Huppert was a lovely person. It’s just that she was so very abrupt. She was nice to me.
As I say, I never felt ill. I used to think, why on earth am I here? I don’t think any of the girls really felt ill.”

After eighteen months Ann was allowed up.

But it is the friendship of the other girls that remains in her memory:
“They were smashing. We had loads of fun there.
Even though I couldn’t sit up and do things, they’d position me where I could watch the telly. (Later I went out on to the balcony). I wasn’t allowed to do anything, only read. The girls would all come around to talk to me.
I started off in the centre of the ward and then I went up near the window, and if I had a mirror in my hand and I held it up I could see who was coming in and out. “

Eventually she was moved into the Six-Bedder, Adelina Patti’s former bedroom
“That was a very posh! It was very hard to get in to there.”

When she was allowed to get dressed she says some of them bought orange trousers.

“I don’t know why.
We could be seen for miles. We couldn’t escape anywhere, with these bright orange trousers on. We used to go over the lake, the boating lake. We’d fall in a couple of times. Then we’d go down, over the bridge to the woods, to the end of the Craig-y-nos mountain. The grounds were lovely.

I remember a Mary Williams. She was at death’s door when she went in. She had a terrible, terrible cough. Every morning they would have to bring her over the bed and thump her back to get rid of what was on her chest.

We had schooling in Craig-y-nos, very elementary stuff.
Someone bought me a typewriter, I don’t know where it came from, and I learned to do shorthand out of a “Teach yourself” book.

“We had a lot of fun. We used to go down to the basement and they had ‘Jimmy the skeleton’ down there.
We used to go down there and frighten the life out of one another.
One of the girls used to have an empty bottle and blow into it so it made an eerie noise. We used to be awful. We’d frighten all the new girls that came in.
I know it’s a terrible thing to do.
We used to have a lot of fun there.”

She remembers settling well into the sanatorium regime:
“No problem at all. It was a very enjoyable stay.”

“And it’s never bothered me to say that I’ve had TB and been in Craig-y-nos.”

To-day Ann, a mother of three in her sixties with four grandchildren, has restricted mobility and gets around with the aid of two sticks.

“I’ve had both hips replaced and has been on sticks for four years.

It has left one leg two inches shorter than the other one. As long as I can get about I’m happy.
It’s painful all the time. It hasn’t stopped hurting from the time I had it done.
But it’s part of me. I don’t notice it too much.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

May Bennett ( nee Snell)- 1955-1956

May Bennett (née Snell) wrote to Dr Carole Reeves:

"I went to see the exhibition in the museum in Swansea yesterday (Tuesday 29 July). It really was like walking back into the past. They conjured up so many memories, both happy and sad. You and Ann have worked very hard to bring back and hold onto a very important chapter in the lives of ‘the inmates of Craig-y-nos’!

I did see my photograph - blushes in embarrassment! (May – we love this picture), and I also recognised myself in another photograph, which I haven’t seen before, with Pat Curry (that was) from Abercwmboi, and one of the orderlies."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

May Bennett ( nee Snell)- 1955-1956

Mary Snell

By the time May Snell, age 13, entered Craig-y-nos in November 1955 the strict sanatorium regime had become more humane , with for example visiting changed from monthly to weekly, due to the successful introduction of antibiotics.
TB was no longer the killer disease though going to Craig-y-nos still aroused fear in peoples minds. Some people still thought:"If you went there you never came out again."

May says:
“Dr Huppert came in one Saturday morning and said, ‘From now on, you’ve all got visiting every weekend.’

But we weren’t sure that our parents would get the message in time for the present weekend. There was a lady in ward 4 engaged to a man from Penclawdd, so I wrote a letter to my parents and asked Nurse Glen if she’d give it to them.
I wrote, ‘Dear Mum and Dad, visiting every weekend starting from today. If you can, come up tomorrow, just jump on the bus.’ I was still in bed then. I remember on the Sunday, the girls by the window used to watch the buses coming up and wait for the Swansea bus to come.
On that Sunday, they said, ‘Here’s the Swansea bus coming!’ One said to me, ‘May, your dad’s there. He’s hanging on the pole and waving!’ My aunt and uncle came as well because Nurse Meikel had told them.

First impression of Craig-y-nos
“I remember looking up at Craig-y-nos Castle and saying to my mother, ‘Are we in the right place? This is a jail!’ -- because of all the bars on the windows. It was a bit of a culture shock.” ( the bars have been removed from the windows because Craig-y-nos Castle is now a hotel )

Despite being put initially on strict bed rest she quickly adapted to the teenage culture inside Ward 2.

’ Some of the girls like Christine Bennett had been there four years, I was lucky really. I was only there for a year but when they’re telling you these things, you think, ‘Oh gosh.’ It was like being in another world. You were in a world of your own, you realised then. You were a bit upset to start with to think you’re not going to see your parents, but you get used to it.”

The visiting tortoise:
“ Astrid’s mum brought a tortoise for her to see one Saturday and my uncle, who was visiting that weekend wrote it up for the local paper.
It said ‘George, the tortoise comes to visit’. It was quite a big piece, a nice piece, and put the hospital in a good light, nothing nasty.

Dr Huppert

Well, the following week, Dr Huppert walked into the ward demanding to know who had done it.

She really went on the rampage. She’d said, ‘Nobody’s going to have visitors until we know.

‘Well,” I said “ I think it’s my uncle that’s done this.’
He had to go and see her the next weekend he came and she wasn’t very nice, she wasn’t very pleased about the tortoise coming in.

Dr Huppert inspired fear not only among the children but their parents too.
“I think all the mothers were terrified of her.
I’ve seen many of them come out in tears. Terrible. I remember once, my hip played me up at one time because I’d had displacement of the hip when I was five, and I was in plaster for a year all down my left leg and up to my chest. Well, they must have given me an X-ray, so she called my mother in to see her and she said, ‘You’re a funny woman, you’re a funny mother because you didn’t tell me about this.’ Well, my mother didn’t. She gave her a list of all my illnesses but that was something she’d forgotten.”
Dr Huppert was also a tough disciplinarian. If she heard children talking after lights out“your bed would be pulled out into the middle of the ward next day as punishment.”

Nurse Glen

But May has fond memories of the nurses:” They were lovely. You had Nurse Glenys Davies and Auntie Mag – Maggie Williams – she was lovely. And Nurse Mair Williams. I remember her doing the Can-Can.”

Auntie Maggie

The only food she can remembers are the burnt sausages, porridge, semonlia and tapioca.
Once a month an aunt would send a little food parcel
“ sweets, a packet of cream crackers, farm butter and a knife.“
Every Saturday my mum would bring me a fish from Belli’s fish and chip shop Swansea it’s not there now, and pickles because I loved pickled vinegar.”
May had visitors every weekend, unlike some of the children.
“Perhaps their parents were too far away or whatever. Well, you shared your visitors. My mum and dad would go and speak to the others, so really I suppose, we were like one big family because I remember Christine’s gran, Mrs Bennett, she was a character. Two of the girls got confirmed there, in the Madame Patti theatre.

The teachers, Miss Thomas and Miss White

Schooling, recalls May, was minimal.
I came from Gowerton Grammar school. They didn’t have all the books in Craig-y-nos. Miss White was the teacher. You didn’t really have lessons like you should. I remember children in maths saying, ‘Can you show me how to do this?’ She’d be the whole lesson doing this. The others then, they didn’t care if they didn’t do anything.

On a Thursday afternoon, we used to have Miss Thomas with music. I remember ‘Nymphs and Shepherds’ and ‘Oh for the wings of a dove.”

“I didn’t go back to grammar school. When I went home the following year, the doctor in Grove Place (TB clinic) said, ‘There is no way you can go back to grammar school because it would be too stressful.’ I would have such a lot to catch up on that I wouldn’t be able to do it and I had to be careful. When you come out of a TB hospital, you’ve got to watch and go to bed by certain times and all that. So, I went to Gorseinon Technical College to do a commercial course for two years. I became a shorthand typist.

Like so many other girls May found it a strange experience going back home especially to a small terraced house after the high celings and vast rooms in the castle”
“You really felt as if the ceiling was going to come in on you. Also you
. did miss the company. You missed the routine.

I’d only been away a year but that year felt like ten. You really did feel as if you were on another planet. You were in a different world.
You were allowed to go out into the grounds but only to certain places..
I remember the Ystalyfera Band. I’ve got a photograph of the Band down in the grounds.
We weren’t allowed to go upstairs to the little ones and neither were we allowed to go into the six-bedder.”
Despite this strict segregation some friendships did form.

You used to go down for X-rays every so often and I remember going there once and Mary Cullen from Swansea was there, so we were speaking. She said, ‘Oh, well, I’m next door to you in six-bedder.’ They weren’t allowed to come in to our ward really, and we weren’t allowed to go in there. Of course, they were older and they had visitors every week.
Mary started sending me then some little cakes and things in from the weekend, with a little note saying, ‘From your X-ray pal, Mary.’ I’ve got a photograph of Mary that she gave me and she’s got on the back, ‘From your X-ray pal.”

Sign language.
Like a number of other teenagers around this time May learnt sign language from Joan Nicesro, the deaf and dumb girl. “Her mum lived in a trailer in one of the fields in Gower. She was a traveller’s child.”

May used to put fruit in her pocket for the weekly weigh-in:
“I was very light and Dr Huppert said, ‘Oh, you can’t go home. You’ve got to put weight on.’ I So I put fruit in the pockets of my dressing gown.
But they sussed that out. ‘We don’t think you’re that heavy. Let’s have a look.’

Times change.
“Years ago they would say: ‘You go to Craig-y-nos and you don’t come out.’ I was there in the 50s in the streptomycin era so it was bed-rest and strep.
There was a lot of camaraderie in the ward once you got to know everyone. It was a bit strange to start with because it was quite a big ward and you had people on the balcony as well but you soon got to know them. I think we were all good friends really. There used to be Girl Guides.
you made your own entertainment. You’d sing.

Life after Craig-y-nos
I’m sixty-five now. I’ve got a son of forty-four and a daughter forty-three and four grandchildren.

I did ask, before we got married to see whether everything would be alright to have children and they said, ‘Yes, it’s fine.’

I can’t say that Craig-y-nos harmed my life. I suppose I was one of the lucky ones because I only had a shadow on the lung and it did clear up with the bed-rest and antibiotics.

On going home
I remember leaving a lot of stuff behind, and what I did bring home was fumigated.

On reflection

You just accepted your way of life there because you didn’t know anything else. You were in a place that wasn’t home but you had to make it home.
You’ve got your sad memories but on the whole, it was a happy time.
When you think of it, it was a beautiful place to be in. It was just that when you went there, the first impression was the bars on the windows.

If it wasn’t for Dr Huppert, it would have been like paradise!”

Monday, September 15, 2008

BBC radio programme

If you missed the BBC Wales radio programme in which Roy Harry Betty Thomas and Valerie Brent were interviewed don't worry: the producer is going to send me a copy on CD which I can put on the web.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Exhibition finished today!

Whoops! sorry about this but there seems to have been some last minute misunderstanding. Larry Perry and Christine tell me that they went there today at lunch-time to find the staff finishing packing up the exhibition.

Still we have had a very good run and over 700 people have signed the Visitors Book.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Week extension - Swansea exhibition

Valerie Brent tells me that the exhibition has been extended for another week! But it will definitely close by September 15th.
Meanwhile she has been asked if she would put together a mini exhibition of The Children of Craig-y-nos for the annual Book Fair on Sunday October 25th inside the Swansea museum.

The exhibition has proved so popular - over 700 have signed the Visitors Book - that the museum have invited her to have a space in the Book Fair to allow people to have yet another look at this historic photographic record of children's lives inside a TB sanatorium.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Boys with teacher, Miss White

Miss Amy White , teacher, with two boys standing beside the stag, a well-known spot for photographs in the grounds of Craig-y-nos Castle. ( Circa 1949-50)

From the collection of Llywella Jenkins

Friday, September 05, 2008

Valerie Brent-Swansea exhibition

A special vote of thanks to Valerie Brent, former nurse at Craigy-nos Castle who regularly sat in on the Swnasea exhibtion every Friday and Saturday and talked to many of the visitors.

This has added greatly to both their understanding and appreciation of the Children of Craig-y-nos photographic exhibition.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Swansea exhibition- ends this weekend

If you have not already visited The Children of Craig-y-nos exhibition in Swansea museum then this week is your last chance.

It closes on Sunday after a very long and highly successful run.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Swansea exhibition- patient and nurse re-unite

Pamela Hamer with Nurse Glenys Davies

Roy Harry with Nurse Glenys Davies

Roy Harry arranged for Nurse Glenys Davies to meet up with Pamela Hamer - first time they had met for over 50 years! they did so at the exhibition in Swansea museum.

Monday, September 01, 2008

BBC Radio Wales - Craig-y-nos

On reflection I realise that the programme yesterday while accurate (a) did not mention the Craig-y-nos project (b) the exhibition in Swansea museum or (c) how BBC online kick-started the project through their community web-site (d) or how the this missing piece of history has only been made possible through the internet and it is an intergenerational project because it is the children and grandchildren who are acting as intermediaries in piecing together the lost 40 years.

The programme was also weak on analysis. While it mentioned Betty Thomas' forced abortion it did not put this into the historical perspective .

However, radio and television are notorious for lifting the research of others without any acknowledgement, so I guess yesterday's programme was par for the course.